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Issue 481, 7 May 2002

New order gladiators

Leeds biology researchers are part of an international team hoping to confirm the discovery of a new order of insects. The wingless predatory creatures have been provisionally named gladiators or Mantophasmatodea (pictured left).

Research student Kathy Meakin found specimens of the insects in Namibia, but could not allocate them to any known order.

Her supervisor, Dr Roger Butlin, heard that researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Limnology in Plon had connected a similar specimen found in Tanzania in 1909 to another, found fossilised in amber.

Dr Butlin and his team are now assisting the German researchers in DNA analysis of the specimens to confirm they are a new 'order'.

Dr Butlin said: "This is a major discovery – if confirmed, it will be the first insect order to be identified since 1915."  The full story of Mantophasmatodea can be seen in the online version of Science.

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